Protesters Hail Soccer Win over Iran after 4 Killed in Baghdad Unrest
Iraqi security forces killed at least four protesters and wounded more than 60 on Thursday in the Khilani area near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, medics and security officials said. Later on Thursday, Iraqis celebrated as their country beat Iran in a key soccer match, the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup. The match, held in Amman, Jordan, was to have been played in the Iraqi port city of Basra but was moved because of the ongoing unrest. Protesters watched the match on a giant screen in Tahrir Square, and Iraq’s 2-1 victory was applauded with fireworks, dancing, and chants of “Out, out, Iran.” At least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in mass protests, mainly in Baghdad and the predominantly Shi’ite south of the country, since the unrest began on October 1. Excessive Iranian influence on the country’s political elite has been one of the chief complaints of protesters, alongside discontent with the country’s economic situation and government corruption and incompetence. Many of the protesters have been killed by military-grade tear gas canisters fired at close range, according to Amnesty International. Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari said Thursday that autopsy reports found tear-gas canisters responsible for protester deaths were “not imported by the Iraqi government or any official Iraqi body.” Some protesters have voiced suspicion that the canisters come from Iran.